Working in a recording studio - Recording

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The aim, during the recording phase, is to record the signals picked up from the sound sources as faithfully as possible, in other words, with as few alterations as possible. For this reason no effects are usually used at this point, the mixdown being the stage in which sound manipulation actually takes place. To set up a recording session, first of all we need a magnetic ribbon that has been appropriately configured. As far as analogue recorders is concerned, we require a track which has a time-code (with digital recorders the time-code reference is generated automatically). This allows us to synchronize all the equipment with this signal, which is our recording's reference too. For our purposes it will suffice for us to imagine that we're using an appropriate time-code generator and that we record it onto one of magnetic ribbon's tracks (let's say, track 24) at the required level. At this point the ribbon is ready for recording. Previously we described the two possible status' of a mixer: recording status and mixing status. It's time to see exactly the configuration of a mixer in these two different status'. When a mixer is in the recording status, the connections with the multi-track recorder are set as illustrated in the following diagram:

Working in the recording studio - Routing of the audio signals during a recording session

Routing of the audio signals during a recording session

Let's take a microphone signal which we wish to record and which we send to input n.1 of the mixer. The signal enters the main channel (its level is controlled by the larger fader) and is then handed over to group 1, which in turn is connected to track 1 of the recorder. At this point, we also have an output signal coming out from from channel 1 of the recorder (which can either be a copy of the signal received at the input, or coming from the recorded tape, depending on whether the track is in input mode [Input mode ] or sync mode [Sync mode ] ). The signal which comes from channel 1 of the recorder, arrives at the input 1 of the mixer, but this time it enters the monitor channel. To sum up: in channel 1 of the mixer we have the input signal coming from the microphone which is controlled by the larger fader, and another signal in the monitor channel which comes from the recorder, which is controlled by the smaller fader.

At this stage we can picture ourselves in a real situation and begin to reason more concretely. As already said, our aim during the recording phase is to make sure that as clean a sound as possible reaches our recorder's tracks from the sound source. It will therefore be our prerogative to make sure that in none of the stages the signal has to go through, any distortions take place. For this reason the main channel's fader, which controls the input signal is turned to 0 Vu (this way the circuit connected to the fader doesn't intervene neither by attenuating nor by amplifying, and therefore adds no distortions). From the main fader, the signal is then transferred to a group, thus we bring the group's fader also to 0 Vu. At this point, by acting on the channel's gain and monitoring the signal on the mixer's Vu-meters [Vu meters ] we bring the level to approximately 0 Vu[15 ] (we mustn't forget that we are recording a sound signal which thus will not have a constant amplitude, but rather, an amplitude which oscillates around an average value, namely 0 Vu). If we repeat this operation on all the channels where signals are present, we can be sure to record each signal at optimal levels and without introducing any distortions.

To listen to the sounds we are recording we have monitor channels, which as already said, receive the signals issued by the recorder. When the mixer is in recording mode, the monitor channels transfer the signals to the mix bus, which can be listened to through the studio monitors. Thus by acting on the secondary faders and their respective panoramic controls, we can create a mix with the signals we are recording. The operations are effectuated in such a way because the signals which will be recorded onto tape must keep constant levels throughout the entire recording (this is why the main channels' and the groups' faders shall always remain at 0 Vu) whereas for listening we have to be free to change the levels of any signal. The main characteristic of the recording mode is that all the facilities on each of the channels (equalizer, filter, pad, phase-inverter etc.), act on the monitor channel's signal instead of the main channel. This is due to the fact that during the recording phase, no manipulations take place on the main channel, in order not to add any distortions. Therefore all the channel's facilities are made available on the monitor channel in order to personalize listening (on certain mixers appropriate switches allow, when necessary, to assign a module to the main channel, deactivating it on the monitor channel).

Let's summarize the main steps in the configuration of a recording studio in the recording phase:

  • Lift the faders of the main channels where the signals to be recorded are present, to 0 Vu.

  • Lift the group faders to 0 Vu.

  • Adjust the signals' levels using each channel's gain-potentiometer, monitoring the levels on the Vu meter.

  • Configure the recorder in such a way that it supplies the input signal at the output, if we are in input mode, or the recorded signal, if we are in sync mode.

  • Lift channel monitor faders up.

  • Lift the main master fader (L-R bus) up.

  • Adjust the monitor mix using the monitor faders and their respective panoramic controls.

[15 ] If the studio has been well calibrated, the signal's level, monitored on the mixer level indicators, should be exactly the same as that on the recorder's indicators.


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